Wedding Invitation Etiquette

Wedding invitation etiquette consists of a set of guidelines which will assist you in the addressing and handling of your wedding invitations. They are only guidelines and not always hard and fast rules that must be followed.

Emily Post, the queen of etiquette, wrote the following in her 1922 book, Etiquette:

“It is hard to say why the word “etiquette” is so inevitably considered merely a synonym of the word “correct,” as though it were no more than the fixed answer to a sum in arithmetic. In fact, it might be well to pull the word “correct” out by the roots and substitute “common sense” instead. In short, I wish that those whose minds are focused on precise obedience to every precept would ask themselves instead, “What is the purpose of this rule? Does it help to make life pleasanter? Does it make the social machinery run more smoothly? Does it add to beauty? Is it essential to the code of good taste or to ethics? If it serves any of these purposes, it is a rule to be cherished; but if it serves no essential purpose, it is certainly not worth taking very seriously.”

In other words, when planning your wedding use common sense! Don’t spend all of your time fretting over the “correct” way to do everything; simply try and think through the decisions you make and how they will effect your guest. An example is when designing a seating chart, be mindful of the relationships between the guest you are seating at each table. It is probably not a good idea to place a couple who has recently separated at the same table.

In regards to your wedding invitations, you want to give your guest all of the information they need to attend your wedding in the manner you desire. You want to convey items such as dress code and the inclusion or not of children in a manner that is both informative and respectful, not offensive. With today’s changing families, you may have a question about including or not including step-parents or both sets of parents in your wedding invitation wording. We’ve included below many examples of socially acceptable wording for many different family situations.

When reading through all of the wedding invitation etiquette advice, remember what Emily Post said, “…if it serves any of these purposes, it is a rule to be cherished; but if it serves no essential purpose, it is certainly not worth taking very seriously…” Here are some important wedding invitation etiquette questions to consider:

1. When do I include a separate invitation to the reception?

When the ceremony and reception are being held at different locations you may want to enclose a reception card with your wedding invitation. The reception card is provided with the envelope and will give specific information such as location and the time of the reception. Also, if the guest list for the ceremony is larger than that for the reception, you will want to enclose a reception card only for those guests who are invited to both the wedding and the reception.

2. How should I properly address the envelope to guest with children?

It is not proper wedding invitation etiquette to address envelopes as Mr. and Mrs. Rodney Evans and Family. Children over the age of eighteen or living away from home should receive their own invitation. If you do not wish to send each child under the age of eighteen a separate invitation, you may write, Miss Annette Evans under the parent’s name. On the inner envelope you can simply write each child’s name underneath the parent’s name. If you do not want children to be invited to the wedding, do not put their names on the invitation. Any parents receiving an invitation addressed strictly to them and not including their children’s name should understand and respect your wishes.

3. Addressing the inner envelope to a close relative.

When addressing the inner envelope of your wedding invitation to relatives who are very dear to you, feel free to use the name you have always called them by such as “Aunt Peggy and Uncle Jim” or “Grandmother.” Even though you may be planning an elegant affair, you still want to display your endearment to those closest to you.

4. How far in advance of the date are invitations mailed to the guests?

Generally, the rule is to mail your invitation six to eight weeks before the wedding date. However, if you are inviting many guests who live out-of-state or are planning your wedding at a holiday season, such as Christmas, you may want to mail them out a few weeks sooner. This extra time will ensure that your guest have plenty of time to arrange their travel schedules. Now that many airlines and travel agencies offer specials to those booking travel arrangements in advance, you might consider sending a “save the date” announcement to your out of state guests and provide them with the wedding date and hotel information three months or more prior to the wedding.

5. How do I let my guest know that the reception is “black tie”?

In the past, most guest understood that a formal event after six o’clock required the guest to wear formal attire. However, today standards are somewhat more relaxed and you may need to specify “black tie” on your invitations if your want your guest to dress accordingly. We suggest that you place the words “Black Tie” in the lower right-hand corner of your wedding or reception invitation. Only use the phrase “Black Tie Optional” if you want to give your guest the option of formal attire or dressy casual. Buzz up!